It’s a bright morning in August and I’m sitting on a bus filled
with bloggers and journalists headed towards Prince Edward
County
. It’s all very reminiscent of one of many high
school field trips, except on this one we don’t have to sneak along
our own alcohol for the ride. As part of its goLOCAL campaign, the
Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is sending us to some of the
area’s preeminent wineries and artisanal
cheese producers. It’s all about promoting
Ontario’s terroir and cool-climate winemaking. Our first stop:
Norman Hardie Winery.


(Norman Hardie vineyard; the man himself – Norman Hardie
pouring one of his prized chardonnays)

Norman Hardie sits
on an ideal, gently sloping hill of clay and limestone. When we
first arrived, we were greeted by the winery’s namesake himself,
Mr. Norman Hardie. The master winemaker spent his formative years
traveling throughout the old- and new-wine worlds and worked as a
sommelier for the Four Seasons Hotel group, before settling in
Ontario. The winery isn’t a large affair – Hardie does almost all
of the work himself – and as such only produces a few thousand
bottles each year, many of which go to a number of key restaurants
in Ontario and Quebec.


(Vineyard luncheon: Tomato, onion & garlic salad, vegetables
grilled to perfection, all grown on the property, served alongside
grilled beef from local Carrying Place butcher)

For our visit, Hardie uncorked an array of ’08 Chardonnays,
which included his Unfiltered County Chardonnay and Cuvee L
Chardonnay. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of these sorts of whites,
but the County won me over. Reds are much more to my liking, and
the Unfiltered 2008 Pinot Noir, along with a locally-sourced
luncheon, made me very happy. Future patrons will be able to
partake in pizzas and other traditional Neapolitan fare from a new
limestone pizza oven, courtesy of Pizzeria
Libretto
.


Before we could all become fully inebriated, the bus whisked us
away to our next stop: Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
Co.
Being a big fan of goat and sheep milk cheeses, my
taste buds were excited. But before they could be sated, Founder
and CEO Petra Cooper and Market Development Manager Andrew
Laliberte took us on a tour of the facility. Prior to incorporating
Fifth Town in Prince Edward County in 2002, Cooper worked as a
publishing industry executive in Toronto. Now, Fifth Town is
Canada’s greenest dairy and the only one with LEED
certification, which recognizes the site’s sustainability, water
efficiency, and indoor-environment quality, among other
things.


After the tour, my taste buds were finally satisfied with a cheese
tasting that is also offered to the public for a very affordable
$12. One of the many things I admire about Price Edward County is
that activity prices are kept reasonably low so all communities can
participate. The tasting including multiple soft and hard cheeses
including varieties dubbed Lacy Grey, Lighthall Tomme, Fellowship,
Goat Cheddar, and more.

One of my favorites was the Lighthall Tomme, which I learned
goes well with Huff South Bay Chardonnay – we were supplied with a
handy cheese and wine pairing guide. One of the best
tips
I’ve ever learned on coupling cheese and wine came
from Laliberte: Pair hard cheeses with heavier and
barrel-aged wines
, and pair soft cheeses with
lighter, fruiter wines
such as Rieslings and sparkling
wines.


( Catherine Langlois of Sandbanks Estate
Winery
)

The final stop of our goLOCAL tour was the warm and inviting Sandbanks Estate
Winery
. Located just east of Wellington, the winery
inspires relaxation with armchairs on the patio and weekly yoga
classes on the front lawn.

The winery itself was started by Catherine Langlois in 2000. Prior
to Sandbanks, she honed her knowledge of wine working in sales for
Pelee Island Winery and has a hand in the vineyards of Burgundy.
She graciously opened the entire bar to us when we arrived, so we
could all taste what we preferred. Most of us steered towards her
award winners. I started with the Rose and its delicious hints of
raspberry, tangerine, and pink grapefruit. It would go very well
with light summer dishes of chicken and fish. Next, I sampled the
Baco Noir Reserve, another award winner with intense plum and wild
cherry flavours. Lastly, the Riesling proved refreshing with its
lime and mineral hints and the Algonquin chair I lounged in.


As we were getting ready to head back to Toronto, Andrew Mackenzie,
co-owner of one of my favorite places in Picton, Buddha Dog,
surprised us with bagged lunches of assorted
hotdogs, ginger ale, and
cookies. Delicious wines, cheese, and Buddha dogs
all from Prince Edward County and all at reasonable prices. Eating
local is definitely the way to go.

For more information on goLOCAL, you can call the
LCBO Infoline at 1-800-ONT-LCBO (668-5226) or visit LCBO
online

Parmjit Parmar is a
publicist and foodie-at-large.

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